WHO: Nigeria facing second wave of diphtheria outbreak

Adebari Oguntoye
Adebari Oguntoye

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says Nigeria is currently facing a second wave of the diphtheria outbreak.

Diphtheria is a bacterial infection caused by the corynebacterium species that affect the nose, throat, and sometimes, skin of an individual.

Some symptoms of diphtheria include fever, runny nose, sore throat, cough, red eyes, neck swelling, and difficulty in breathing.

To curtail the infection, the Nigeria childhood immunisation schedule recommends three (3) doses of pentavalent vaccine (diphtheria toxoid-containing vaccine) for children in the 6th, 10th and 14th week of life.

In a statement on Thursday, the health body said there has been an increase in Nigeria’s affected population with a rise in the number of confirmed cases and related deaths.

The report also said since the outbreak was first reported in 2022, no fewer than 4,717 diphtheria cases out of the 8,353 suspected cases have been confirmed.


“Nigeria is currently facing a second wave of a diphtheria outbreak after a first wave of the outbreak was recorded between epidemiological week 52, 2022 (1 January 2023) and week 20, 2023 (22 May 2023),” the report reads.

“Since the last Disease Outbreak News on diphtheria in Nigeria was published on 27 April 2023, the country has reported suspected cases of diphtheria weekly to WHO.

“However, between 30 June and 31 August 2023, Nigeria recorded an unusual increase in the number of confirmed diphtheria cases.

“From 30 June to 31 August 2023, a total of 5898 suspected cases were reported from 59 LGAs in 11 states across the country.

“The majority (99.4%) of suspected cases were reported from Kano (1816), Katsina (234), Yobe (158), Bauchi (79), Kaduna (45) and Borno (33).

“Of the cumulative 8353 suspected cases reported since the outbreak was first reported in 2022, 4717 (56.5%) cases were confirmed.

“The low national coverage (57%) of the Pentavalent vaccine (Penta 3) administered in routine immunization, and the suboptimal vaccination coverage in the pediatric population—with 43% of the target population unvaccinated—underscores the risk of further spread and the accumulation of a critical mass of susceptible population in the country with sub-optimal herd or population immunity.

“This emphasizes the urgent need to strengthen diphtheria vaccination coverage nationwide, especially in the most affected states, such as Kano.”

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